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New leadership in 2023 for area arts organizations

Julianne Boyd
Barrington Stage Company
Julianne Boyd

In the entertainment industry at the start of a new year the tendency is to dwell on the productions of the last year. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook those backstage who make the magic happen.

Like so many things in life, we don’t fully appreciate the people who quietly add to our quality of life until they are gone. Sometimes it’s a good thing to look behind the curtain.

In 2022 two major resignations took place that have affected our arts scene for many years past. Lawrence Edelson has left Opera Saratoga and Julianne Boyd has retired from Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA.

Each had a different tenure. What was similar is both had the unique ability to produce high quality work and be superior fundraisers.

One way they did it was integrating the community in their mission. They made the public regard their theaters as an asset for the communities they served. It is the basis for financial contributions from individuals and governments.

Edelson joined Opera Saratoga in 2014. He not only saved the organization from financial ruin, under his tenure the company thrived. Onstage work improved dramatically and the fundraising flourished.

He scheduled new, challenging, contemporary material without disowning the classics. One hallmark of his philosophy was socially relevant work. I will always remember “The Long Walk,” a work about soldiers affected by PTSD. Another trait was the support of emerging talent. Without question many of the young performers in Opera Saratoga’s expanded Young Artists Program will reshape contemporary opera.

Despite our area’s loss, Edelson’s work with emerging artists will expand. He took a position with the University of Houston and the leadership of Moore’s Opera Center. The positions are a perfect complement to him being the Artistic General Director of American Lyric Theatre in NYC. All are important institutions for the development of young performers, composers, librettists and dramaturgy.

Saratoga’s loss is a gain for the future of opera.

Julianne Boyd’s achievements are already legendary. She was a successful Off-Broadway presence when in 1993 she became artistic director of Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA. After two years she departed BTF to co-found Barrington Stage Company. Her personality and drive has shaped the company for 26 years.

It all started by doing shows in a Sheffield, MA high school with a budget of $250,000. After 10 seasons in Sheffield they bought a theater in Pittsfield, MA. Today the company is a major economic generator in the city. It has an operating budget of $5.2 million. They own two theaters and a cabaret space as well as an administrative building and a huge production center.

The onstage work has been equally impressive. They’ve produced 41 premieres. Three of their shows have moved to Broadway and ten to Off-Broadway.

However, to me, Boyd’s defining achievement was at the height of the COVID pandemic when Boyd produced the drama “Harry Clarke.” With the exception of the neighboring Berkshire Theater Group, every other theater in the country was closed.

Her determination kept live theater available and gave hope for the future. If anyone deserves the Tony Award for Best Regional Theatre it should be Barrington Stage Company under the leadership of Julianne Boyd.

Though Edelson and Boyd will be missed, both leaders have left behind sturdy organizations that should continue to excel.

Opera Saratoga is still in a national search for a successor to Edelson. Meanwhile BSC has named 37-year old Alan Paul to replace Boyd. Paul was the Associate Artistic Director of Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

One can only hope that when the person who takes over either organization leaves their tenure - they take with them the same respect and community good will as do Boyd and Edelson.

Though I feel sad about the loss of two dynamic arts leaders, I do look forward to new beginnings in 2023.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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